Pigeon Poop Patrol missed Olivia today and got me instead. Darn good thing we are not looking up with our mouths open! For the past 2 days in Venice Olivia seems to have been their main target, but today, they got me!
I don’t think I have ever walked as much, climbed as many stairs, seen as many special places or looked at so many violin collections in glass cases ever before. The longer we stay here the more we add to our MUST DO list, except for churches. Although we are tired of them, the ones we have visited so far have been wonderful. They are time capsules that contain art dating back to before the 15th century (some including works by Bellini and Tintoretto), historically significant architecture, and the stories that accompany the patron family that paid for its construction. Each church is also the resting place for the saints and other notable figures that are buried beneath, on top of and inside the building. Some of these churches even have glass sarcophagi’s that have the mummified remains of revered personages. Those are hard to look at.
Today we found the church where Vivaldi was baptized in 1641 and I took a photo of the baptismal font with Vivaldi’s certificate of baptism beside it. San Giovanni in Bragora is just located 5 minutes from our hotel and faces an open public square. Historians also believe that his family lived in one of the houses adjacent to the church and so I took pictures of them as well.
We were finally able to coordinate a visit to the church next to our hotel. This Church of the Pietà also has a Vivaldi connection, as the church and hotel are standing where the original orphanage was located. The Church of the Pietà that stands here today was built just after Vivaldi’s time (1745) but has continued the tradition of public concerts and in particular those featuring Vivaldi’s music.
Apparently the late 17th-century saw a decline of sacred music in Venice’s main churches. Instead, music was performed for the general public in the city’s four Ospedali (the charitable institutions that looked after orphaned children). These public concerts brought in money that helped finance the Ospedali. Consequently, these institutions became more like music schools. The high standard of the Pietà orchestra made their concerts especially renowned. It was Venice’s male musicians (often priests) who were the music teachers. Due to his reputation as a virtuoso violinist, Vivaldi became one of them. He was hired as a violin teacher in 1703 and his role gradually expanded to include that of house-composer and conductor of the orchestra (maestro di concerti). A great part of Vivaldi’s tremendous output of instrumental and sacred music was written for the Ospedale’s orchestra and for the virtuoso female orphans, his students.
Today we also viewed a former home (or palace) of a wealthy family. The Palazzo Querini Stampila now houses a library and a museum of fine art, musical instruments, furniture and rooms staged to be the way they were in the 18th century. In them they displayed a large number of masterpieces of Venetian painters, including Giovanni Bellini and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. This gave both of us a brief glimpse into the style of living for a wealthy Venetian family when Vivaldi was active.
It was also very interesting to view the internal restorations on the main floor and to note how a modern architect can work with the conditions of homes here in Venice and modernize it while maintaining the intrinsic functionality of the main floor where the entrance from the canal, the water table fluctuation and the garden’s small space can be updated.
See this link to view a brief documentary called Venice Backstage and it will help you all to understand what we are just now starting to appreciate.
To give you an update regarding the latest earthquake in Northern Italy, even though there was another aftershock this past Tuesday, Venice has not been harmed. The intensity of the quake was greatly reduced by the time it reached Venice to the extent that neither Olivia nor I felt it. The epicenter was about 200 km south of Venice and it experienced 5.8 quake. Apparently the quake-induced modifications to the earth’s surface and underlying layers have activated a new fault in the Po Valley that is between the Alps and the Apennines. They are expecting a greater number of aftershocks of undetermined intensity for months to come.
While Venice could be considered safe because it is built on flexible wooden foundations, it could actually be a danger because of the lack of building maintenance. An aftershock or new quake could increase the possibility of a statue falling or moldings coming loose. For safety reasons the Church of San Barnaba has been closed as well as some local schools. Managing this city of art must be an art in itself!
One more busy day ahead and then home to get some rest!